Text: Matthew 27 : 32 - 66
Jesus was not the only one crucified that day. Two others were crucified with Him. These were notorious criminals who were crucified as a warning to others not to test the patience of Rome.
“Then two robbers were crucified with Him,
one on the right and another on the left.
And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads
and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it
in three days, save Yourself! If you are the Son of God,
come down from the cross.'”
BLASPHEMY OF THE PASSERS-BY
To the Roman soldiers, crucifixion was not an uncommon sight to see. One can become quite callous or immune to the pain of others. The soldiers who crucified Jesus gambled away His garments without even a twinge of conscience.
How would ordinary passers-by react to a crucifixion scene? Matthew preserved the comments of some passers-by who watched the crucifixion of Jesus. Their comments revealed much about them.
The crucifixion of Jesus took place during a special holy convocation week. The celebration of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread was something that most looked forward to. If you had a choice, would you spend the time preparing to celebrate the Passover/Unleavened Bread or go and watch a gruesome crucifixion? There would be those who would choose to prepare their hearts and minds for Passover. But there would also be those who would be drawn to watch grisly proceedings.
There are some who in wisdom would refrain their lips from commenting unnecessarily. But there will also be others who feel that they must make some kind of comments – even if they did not have full and complete understanding.
a) ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself’
This statement of Jesus was obviously grossly misunderstood. Anyone who had ever heard Jesus preaching or teaching would have been aware of the fact that His words were always deep and fraught with meaning! To quote Him without full comprehension only announced the foolishness of the speakers!
b) ‘If You are the Son of God, come down from the Cross’
What did the term ‘Son of God’ really mean? Did it mean that the Person who wore the title had unlimited power to utilize as He pleased? Could He just come down from the Cross as a display of power?
How little the passers-by understood Jesus! How little they understood about God’s plan of salvation. How little they understood about the roles and responsibilities of the Son of God! Their comments revealed their ignorance!
c) ‘Blasphemed Him’
Do people have the “right” to pass comments as they pleased? Did they think that they were blameless when they spoke out of turn? Matthew noted that they had “blasphemed” Jesus when they spoke as they did. They had sinned a terrible sin, by opening their mouths and speaking foolishly.
ANOTHER SET OF CAUSTIC COMMENTS
The following comments made by his enemies, who had engineered the death of Jesus, would not be unexpected.
“Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes
and elders, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save.
If He is the king of Israel, let Him now come down from the Cross,
and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him
deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said,
‘I am the Son of God.’ Even the robbers who were crucified
with Him reviled Him with the same thing.'”
1. Amazingly similar comments!
Who were the passers-by? We do not know very much about them, except when we see Matthew distinguishing them from the “chief priests, scribes and elders”. In other words, these were probably the average Jew. They would not have the learning of the chief priests and the scribes. They would not have the social standing of the elders also.
We would have expected much more from the chief priests, scribes and elders. Yet, their mocking comments showed strangely similar lines of reasoning.
a) Their level of understanding Jesus was dismally shallow.
b) Their theological comprehension of the Word of God concerning the following topics was just as shallow:-
i) The power to save
ii) Kingship of the Messiah
iii) Deliverance from God
iv) The Son of God
2. The comments of the robbers
Their comments were expected! But what do you expect from robbers? How well do we know Jesus and the Biblical theology?